A helicopter crashed in thick woods early Sunday during the search for a missing hunter, killing all three people on board, according to the company that owns the aircraft.

The cause of the crash was being investigated, said Jeff Davis, a manager of Air Evac EMS, based in West Plains, Mo.

The helicopter crew had spotted the hunter and the crash occurred as the aircraft was hovering over his location, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Warren Woodberry.

The hunter was recovered, said Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May. He said the hunter, whose name was not released, had disappeared after dark Saturday in the Freedom Hills Wildlife Management Area, a 31,572-acre state hunting preserve.

The hunter was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life threatening, May said.

Air Evac EMS did not release the names of the victims on the helicopter — the pilot, a nurse and an unidentified third person.

The company has helicopters based in 12 states. In addition to providing air ambulance services, it often helps local law enforcement agencies with search and rescue missions free of charge, said company spokeswoman Julie Heavrin.